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  1. #1
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    Green Papaya, King of Isaan Foods - Why?

    Why is Green Papaya the king of Isaan foods?


    Fresh green (unripe) papaya (mak hoong in north Isaan/Lao) has got to be the most popular fruit in Isaan, even more popular than the ubiquitous mango (mamuang). What is strange about this popularity is that, while papaya is common in the tropics world-wide, nowhere else is the green papaya widely eaten. In most areas it is only eaten ripe, as a sweet fruit. Some cultures (and some here on TD) consider green papaya inedible. Others only eat the unripe papaya if fully cooked.



    Green (unripe) and Ripe Papaya



    I thought there would already be something on TD where the question of why green papaya is so popular in Isaan would be answered. So, I went back through 200+ old TD threads; there are some excellent ones covering most everything anyone would want to know about papaya salad (som tam). In one, the learned Sabang states that “unripe papaya is the healthiest thing in the World”. Even in Mr. Slap's numerous posts praising his namesake, he really doesn't tell us why it should be eaten, other than that's what some old lady put on the table in front of him.




    Lunch on the gazebo, Som Tam in the place of honor.


    So, the question is why, in Isaan, is something that many cultures consider inedible, eaten at most meals? I can't, for the life of me, come up with a logical reason. Maybe our members here at TD can.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Borey the Bald
    Why is Green Papaya the king of Isaan foods?
    Absolutely no idea I enjoy some pappaya salad every now and then but hold the rotting crab

  3. #3
    sabaii sabaii
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    Maybe because they will eat any shite up there

    rat, dung beetles etc

    The chilli kills off most of the taste

  4. #4
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    Posh for Isaan, the table I mean.

    floor mats normally.


  5. #5
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    sunsetter's Avatar
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    i thought it added an extra boost to the good old clearout process that som tam brings after you partake

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabaii sabaii View Post
    Maybe because they will eat any shite up there

    That could also be the answer to the question, why do Brits eat beans?

  7. #7
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    Here's my take on it.
    The papaya grows rapidly and in abundance.

    It's eaten unripe so that the chef can pick it before somebody else does.

    It's considered good manners to dispose of rotting crabs/prawns by chucking them into the mix.

    If a person can stomach the dish, it opens up whole new horizons on the food front, ie pretty much anything becomes a potential part of the diet, making crunchy cockroach a positive culinary delight compared to somtam.

  8. #8
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    You can make somtam with green mango, and carrots too. Mrs sabs 'toned down' carrot somtam was quite a hit at BBQ's when we lived in Oz.
    The green papaya is indeed healthy-

    this once very exotic fruit has some very powerful nutritional benefits. This low in calories sweet and refreshing fruit is loaded with vitamin A and harbors more vitamin C than the well renowned orange. It also contains vitamin E, folate, and potassium. Therefore, it contains three very powerful antioxidants.

    So, what are antioxidants?

    Antioxidants are compounds that help protect the body from cellular damage caused by free radicals. The body needs antioxidants because with every breath you take you generate free radicals, which are highly reactive substances that can attack and damage cells. As such, many experts believe that free radicals are major factors leading to more than sixty different health problems including aging, cancer, and atherosclerosis.

    But wait, the papaya has more than its impressive nutritional benefits. It also harbors natural digestive enzymes that provide you with additional papaya health benefits. Let's now delve deeper into papaya enzyme benefits.

    Papaya Enzyme Benefits - Papaya Health Benefits

    'Pok poked' and made into somtam Thai, it is luvly- especially good with fried chicken.
    Made into Isaan somtam it is pretty awful- red hot, pungent, stinks to high heaven.
    My lot love their Isaan somtam, but find the thai version boring. As a result, I eat very little som tam.
    probes Aliens

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang View Post
    The green papaya is indeed healthy-

    this once very exotic fruit has some very powerful nutritional benefits. This low in calories sweet and refreshing fruit is loaded with vitamin A and harbors more vitamin C than the well renowned orange. It also contains vitamin E, folate, and potassium. Therefore, it contains three very powerful antioxidants.

    So, what are antioxidants?

    Antioxidants are compounds that help protect the body from cellular damage caused by free radicals. The body needs antioxidants because with every breath you take you generate free radicals, which are highly reactive substances that can attack and damage cells. As such, many experts believe that free radicals are major factors leading to more than sixty different health problems including aging, cancer, and atherosclerosis.

    But wait, the papaya has more than its impressive nutritional benefits. It also harbors natural digestive enzymes that provide you with additional papaya health benefits. Let's now delve deeper into papaya enzyme benefits.

    Papaya Enzyme Benefits - Papaya Health Benefits
    .
    We all know papaya is healthy, the question is why eat it GREEN. It's just as healthy when it's ripe and sweet.
    Same goes for green mango, why would you?

  10. #10
    splendid and tremendous
    somtamslap's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Koojo
    We all know papaya is healthy, the question is why eat it GREEN. It's just as healthy when it's ripe and sweet. Same goes for green mango, why would you?
    All shall be revealed at the supermarket checkout..

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Koojo
    It's just as healthy when it's ripe and sweet.
    Still healthy, but not as healthy- too much sugar.
    Tbh, ripe papaya is a bit boring anyway. After a while.
    Good natural laxative though.
    We've got papaya by the bucketload here- I'm thinking of juicing it green, and making smoothies.
    Last edited by sabang; 01-11-2011 at 08:13 AM.

  12. #12
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    Papaya seed are quite edible too, some say a bit peppery. Reckon I might try pan toasting them and sprinkling them on salad, or maybe add them to the somtam.

  13. #13
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    Mr Earl's Avatar
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    Ya don't wanna feed papaya seeds to composting worms, kills them.
    I love a good issan/lao somtam, I be missin' that about now.
    Last edited by Mr Earl; 01-11-2011 at 08:56 AM.

  14. #14
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    it's only specifically an issan dish with the rotten shite though, isn't it?

    Up here I have to ask for Somtam Thai if I don't want the fermented fish / crabs / baby shrimp.

    Edit: missed Sabangs post

  15. #15
    sabaii sabaii
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang
    harbors more vitamin C than the well renowned orange
    I had someone in Nana explain to me there is more protein in the bugs he was eating than it's equivalent in Steak

    "There's a fukkin Tenderloins down the road", I told him

    I also asked him how these bugs die.... pesticide was my guess, I reckon he thought a stun gun

  16. #16
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    I think there is more of the enzyme papain in unripe papaya. And as mentioned, it has digestive properties ( a proteolytic enzyme.... helps digest protein) as well as being strongly anti-cancer. Papaya leaf tea has been used to combat cancer; apparently effectively.

  17. #17
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    I've long been aware Papaya is one of the healthiest foods on the planet.

  18. #18
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    The Papaya A Foreign Fruit Popular among the Thais

    The Papaya (Carica Papaya) is a foreign fruit that has become very popular among the Thai people. Introduced into Thailand about 200 years ago at the beginning of the present Chakri dynasty, it has been a highly successful immigrant. It is now grown in every town and village of this country and its fruit is enjoyed by people in all walks of life.

    Its great popularity may be attributed to several factors: The plant is easy to grow; it has a high productivity; its fruit has a good taste and is nutritious; its juice is also valuable.

    more click the source: Thai Fruits : The Papaya
    If you donít have a dream,
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    ถ้าคุณไม่มีความฝัน คุณจะก้าวไปสู่การทำให้ผันเป็นจริงได้อย่างไร

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  19. #19
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    The more something give you the shits, the more popular it is in Isaan.

  20. #20
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    Sure, papaya is widely known to be healthy. As was pointed out above, it contains an enzyme that is used as a meat tenderizer (Adolph's) and aids digestion, it is thought to be a female contraceptive (although apparently not very effective), and is used to remove parasitic worms from the body. It is fed to pigs to reduce parasites and increase their growth rate. The juice is thought to inhibit the growth of liver cancer. The seeds are antibacterial, may protect the kidneys from failure, and may have contraceptive effects in males. The raw leaves are known to increase blood platelet count. All good reasons to eat papaya.


    But still no good answer to the original question; why has something that is considered to be inedible by many people, become the most widely eaten food in Isaan?

  21. #21
    sabaii sabaii
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    ^ I thought that was rice ?

  22. #22
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    Perhaps it originated with poverty. He who eats the unripe papaya fills his tummy before the horde arrives to pick the ripe ones.

  23. #23
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    Grows like wildfire, which means free or cheap, and healthy- very healthy actually. Then they make some recipes from it which are both local, and Thai staple's. What's not to like?

  24. #24
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    Goes well with lao khao or toilet duck or any other industrial house hold cleaner Somchai and Turdsak can get their hands on at nine in the morning.


    Makes great pictures when they chuck up at four pm too.....

  25. #25
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    I reckon they eat it green, in somtam, because they like the texture. This explains why green mango and, as stated above, carrots can be substituted.

    Hard to make somtam with a ripe papaya. And it's all about the spicy, fishy, rank flavor right?

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